A complete guide to Pinterest ads for digital agencies

Published Jul 2 2021 11 minute read Last updated May 29 2024
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  • Mark Xavier Quadros
    Written by Mark Xavier Quadros

    a SaaS content marketer that helps brands create and distribute rad content.

As of Q4 2020, Pinterest has amassed over 459 million active monthly users and its audience base continues to grow, capturing the attention of the previously elusive male, Millennial, and Gen Z demographic. In the same quarter, Pinterest's revenue grew by 76% year over year to reach $706 million dollars and weekly conversions rose by 300% thanks to its advertising success.

Adding Pinterest to your marketing strategy could introduce your business, products, and services to a large potential customer base who are actively looking for their next purchase. In fact, over 85% of weekly Pinners have bought something after seeing Pins from brands.

Not to mention the fact that Pinners are 3x more likely to click through to your website than on any other social media platform, and when they do, Pinterest ads cost 2.3x less per conversion and have a longer shelf life than Instagram posts or Tweets.

These statistics show that advertising on Pinterest is a step in the right direction for your brand. In this guide, we'll walk you through everything you need to know about Pinterest ads from the different types available to how to create your first campaign on the platform, and strategies you can implement to maximize the impact of your promotions.

How do Pinterest ads work?

All Pinterest ads begin with a pin. Pins could be pictures, videos, or collections that users can add to their boards. They're usually linked to websites that users visit to get more information. For example, "DIY party decoration ideas" could be a pin and when you click on it, you'll land on a site about party planning. 

The beauty of Pinterest ads is that they function just like regular pins and blend seamlessly into the user's home feed. The only difference is promoted pins come with the label stating the name of the brand promoting the pin.


Pinterest displays sponsored pins to users based on their historical activity: the categories they regularly search for and the pins they save. So if a Pinner has a habit of browsing and saving pins related to interior decoration topics, and you're an advertiser selling vases, shelves, and furniture, your Pinterest ad will show up in their feed.

Promoted pins can also be displayed in search results for a particular topic. This enables you to reach consumers who are searching for your products or services at the exact moment when they need them.

Different types of Promoted Pins/Pinterest ads

Pinterest provides a variety of ad formats you can choose from when creating your campaigns. Before you can decide on the one that's right for you, you need to consider your campaign goals and the unique attributes of each ad type.

Keep in mind that you can add a description of up to 500 characters and a title of up to 100 characters for each of these formats. This helps Pinterest's algorithm to better understand the content of your promoted pin and ensure it's seen by the right audience.

Static ads

Static ads feature one image in .jpeg or .png file format and the function the way regular pins do so people can leave comments on them, pin them to boards, or share with others.

Once a user shares your static ad, the "Promoted" label disappears and subsequent repins are categorized as earned media or organic pins. This means that you won't have to pay extra for the additional exposure—you get it for free. 


When someone clicks on your static ad, they'll be taken directly to your website or landing page. Make sure you follow these recommended specifications when creating a static ad:

  • File type — PNG or JPEG
  • Aspect ratio — 2:3 or 1000 x 1500 pixels and vertically oriented
  • File size — Up to 10 MB max

Tip: Using an aspect ratio greater than the recommended specs may cause your ad image to be cut off in user's feeds. Also, the first 30-40 characters of your title and the first 50-60 of your description are the most important so make them count.

Video ads

Pinterest video ads are displayed in search results, user's home feeds, and the "more like this" section. Video ads present an opportunity to connect with your audience on a deeper level, share compelling and relatable stories, or teach users how to do something.

For example, Carnation used short, engaging tutorial video ads to increase brand awareness for their condensed milk products by 5.3% and boost purchase intent by 4.3%.


There are two video pin ad sizes to choose from: standard width which is the same size as regular pins and max-width which occupies the user's whole screen on mobile to prevent viewers from getting distracted by other pins.

how-to-use-video-on-pinterestSource: Claudia Mellein

Regardless of the size you opt for, your video will automatically play once it's 50% within view. However, max-width videos are more expensive than their counterpart.

For video ads, Pinterest recommends the following specs:

  • File type – MP4, M4V, or MOV
  • Length — 4 seconds to 30 minutes max
  • File size — Up to 2GB
  • Encoding — H.265 or H.264
  • Aspect ratio — Shorter than 1:2 and taller than 1:91:1 or (2:3 or 9:16) for vertical and (1:1) for square standard width videos; and (1:1) for square and (16:9) for wide-screen max width videos

Tip: Most people watch online videos with the sound off so ensure your video is optimized for silent viewings by adding text to engage viewers and help them follow what's happening on screen.

App Install ads

If you've got an app and you want to drive people to download, install, and use it, this action-oriented Pinterest ad format is the right for the job.

Promoted app pins only work for mobile devices, allowing users to click on the pinned image and download your app directly through Pinterest, without having to exit the platform. You can link your app install ads to your download URL on Google Playstore or the Apple App Store.

Use the ad description to highlight certain features and benefits of your app so people know what they'll be getting if they choose to download it. This Freeletics App install pin serves as a great example.


Carousel ads

Pinterest introduced carousel ads in November 2018 and it's quickly become one of the most popular ad formats. Carousels contain two to five images or videos that users can swipe through. They behave like regular pins except that there are dots underneath them indicating that there are multiple cards in the pin.


Carousel ads are great for promoting multiple products or highlighting the various features of a particular product. You can display them on both mobile and desktop devices and each card in the carousel can have a different description, title, and landing page link. 

The outdoors recreational services company, REI leveraged carousel ads to great success, boosting their click-through rate by 32% with their Experience the Outdoors Campaign.

The ideal specs for carousel pins are:

  • File type — JPEG or PNG
  • Aspect ratio — 1:1 or 2:3
  • File size — 32 MB per image max

Shopping ads

According to Pinterest, Scotch & Soda lowered their cost per acquisition by 40%, generated 7× higher returns on ad spend, reached 800k unique users, and scored 550 add-to-carts—all with shopping pin ads.

If the aim of your campaign is to drive sales, shopping pin ads are designed to help you do just that. Shopping pins feature an image or video that users can tap or click on to shop the product directly from the pin.

Shopping pin ads work on both desktop and mobile. However, the process for setting it up differs depending on whether you're using the bulk editor or Ads manager.

Collections ads

Collection ads contain multiple products in a single pin or image. The main image will have a collection of smaller images for the products being advertised under it. The shoppable products in the main image will have white dots on them and users can click on each individual product to shop it directly from Pinterest.

example-of-a-collection-ad-on-pinterestYou need to set up the Catalog—a feed ingestion tool on Pinterest—before you'll be able to run collection ads. For this, you'll need:

  • A Pinterest business account
  • A company website that conforms with Pinterest's merchant guidelines
  • A source file containing data about your products and their attributes
  • A Pinterest tag on your site
  • A data source host like Square, Productsup, Shopify, and others that can host, store, and send your product data to Pinterest daily.

Setting up your Pinterest ad campaigns

Now that you know the different types of Pinterest ads, it's time for you to start setting up your ad campaign. Following these easy steps will help you get your ads—aside from collection pin ads–up and running.

1. Create a business account

If you have a personal Pinterest account, you can create a business account while you're logged in. Just head to your homepage, click on the down arrow in the upper-right corner to reveal the menu, and click Add a free business account. This will allow you to switch between your personal and business accounts with the same login details.


Alternatively, you can convert your personal account into a business one. Or set up a new business account that's not associated with your personal account. Simply visit the Pinterest website, click Sign up, scroll down and select Are you a business? Get started here!, then fill out the form with the appropriate information. 

2. Define your campaign objective

What are you hoping to accomplish with your ad campaign? Do you want to increase conversions? Boost brand awareness? Generate traffic? Get people to download your app? Rack up views on your video? 

Whatever the objective is, this is the point where you set it up. The goal you choose will affect the ad format you can use and your ad auction bid, so make sure it's the right one for your business.


Use an objectives and key results framework to establish how you'll track and measure the performance of your ads and determine whether your campaign is helping you progress towards your goals.

3. Set your budget

After selecting a campaign goal, you'll need to set your campaign budget. You can choose a daily or lifetime ad budget for your business. You can also set a start and end date for your campaign.


Make sure you account for the costs of creating high-quality visuals for your Pins when planning your campaign budget. If you'll need to hire photographers or graphic designers or invest in photo editing software to bring your images or videos to life, take that into consideration. 

4. Create an ad group

An ad group is like a receptacle for your promoted pins. It helps you manage multiple objectives within one campaign. You can create a new ad group or choose an existing one. Give your ad group a name based on its focus or subject matter, e.g, "Sustainable fashion."

create-an-ad-group-on-pinterestYou can assign a different budget or target a different audience, interest, ad placement, or keyword with each ad in the group.

Let's say you want to create a campaign for fitness and nutrition, you can include ad groups like "female audience age 20+," "male audience age 20+," "those who love the gym," and "those who love home workouts." Then you can measure them to see which ad gets the best results in the campaign.

5. Identify and create your audience

Next, you need to decide who you feel is most likely to take an interest in your ad, brand, products, or service. Scroll down to the bottom of the page where you'll find Targeting Details and select your target audience. 


First, you'll be asked to choose between find new customers and connect with users to reveal other targeting options like interests, ad placements, audience, demographics, and keywords. 

There are further sub-categories under each of these options to help you refine targeting to the best of your abilities. Based on the targeting option you choose, Pinterest will show you the potential audience size you can reach with your ads.

6. Design your ad

If you already have pins on your profile that are doing well, you can choose to promote them. Another option is to create new images or videos that reflect the spirit of your brand and the purpose of your campaign, pin them to your profile, and run your ads on them.

After selecting the pin you want to promote, you'll be able to add a title and a link to your site or wherever you want to drive traffic to. If you use a customer relationship management tool and your customer's buyer journey is typically long, you can also include a tracking URL so you can tell which users engaged with your ads.

7. Hit “Publish”!

Once all your ad parameters have been set, click Publish to make your campaign live. Don't forget to use project management software to monitor and measure the success and overall progress of your campaigns.

Then you can use the insights you gather from your marketing reporting data to inform your next campaign and help it perform even better. You can always view the analytics for your ads under the Reporting tab on your Ads Manager dashboard.

Pinterest ad best practices

Here are some strategies and best practices that will let you make the most of your Pinterest ads, help your campaigns stand out, and improve your company's bottom line.

1. Create captivating visuals

Visuals are the lifeblood of Pinterest. Your creative assets, be it videos or images, need to be awe-inspiring, clean, and of high quality. You want your pins to be beautiful and interesting enough to make people pause their scrolling to interact with your ad.

2. Use clear branding

Pinterest users appreciate branded content as long as it's tasteful. Adding your name and logo to your promoted pins will help users easily identify and remember your brand, resulting in an increase in awareness for your business.

Make sure you display branding in the first few seconds or the entire duration of your video ads. For image ads, avoid adding your brand name or logo in the lower right corner as it could end up getting cut off or overshadowed by other content.

3. Employ storytelling 

The power of stories has endured for thousands of years and it won't fade anytime soon. Make your ads more engaging by weaving stories into your promoted videos. Think of the best ads you've seen, they didn't just tell you to buy this or that. They told a story that tugged at your emotions, a narrative you could relate to. Take a cue from them.

4. Provide compelling descriptions

Your pin descriptions can make a world of difference in getting people to click on your campaigns and convert. Don't just cook up a word salad and call it a day. Ensure that your description really provides context and explains what people start to gain from buying what you're selling. Incorporate keywords into it too.

5. Add text overlay

Text can enhance your messages, boost comprehension, and increase the accessibility of your ad campaigns so try to infuse it into your images and videos. Don't get too carried away with it though or you'll wind up diminishing the impact of your visuals.

Text overlays that are actionable, make important announcements or highlight the unique features of your product or brand. Remember to include a call to action on your pin to push people who see your ad to click it and buy something, learn more about your brand, install your app, or perform other desired actions.

Pinterest targeting strategies

Besides the standard demographic targeting—age, location, gender, language, etc—Pinterest allows you to segment the audience you want your ads to be shown to based on the following criteria.


1. Keyword targeting

By knowing and leveraging keyword research you can discover the terms people are searching for that are related to the products you offer. Then, you can use them in your pin titles and descriptions and target them in your ads to ensure your campaigns show up when people search for those words.

2. Interest targeting

The concept of creating targeted messages is not one that's unique to websites alone, it also extends to your Pinterest campaigns. Use the things your target audience is interested in to connect with them, capture their attention, and get them to patronize your business. There are over 6,000 interests you can target on Pinterest.

3. Actalike audiences

This targeting strategy enables you to reach people who share the same interests, belong to the same demographics, and behave like your customers. Start by targeting broad actalike audiences to broaden your reach. You can then narrow it down to the best audience when you've collected enough insights to see how your ads performed.

4. Pinterest dynamic creative

With dynamic creative, you can automate your targeting and ad creation process based on the behavior of the particular user viewing the ad. Essentially, you'll be able to automatically generate multiple versions of your ad, and Pinterest will choose and display the one it thinks is most likely to get the user to take action.

Pinterest retargeting strategies

Like Facebook and the rest, Pinterest allows you to re-target people who have already interacted with your brand at some time in the past.

1. Customer list targeting

If you want to target users on your customer or email lists, this re-targeting feature is the way to go. You can even compare your existing customers to Pinterest users and reach them on the platform or create a similar audience.

2. Visitor retargeting

With this tool, you can track customer movements and behaviors by adding conversion tags to your site. Then you can use this data to optimize your ad spend and showcase the right content to users based on the actions they took or didn't take on your site.

3. Pin engagers

Pin engagers allow you to target your ads at visitors who have engaged with your pins in the past. This engagement could be in the form of video views, pin clicks, carousel card swipes, outbound clicks, and pins they commented on or saved.

Diversify your digital marketing strategy

Pinterest is growing fast into an advertising powerhouse and pitching your tent with it can dramatically increase brand awareness, reach, conversions, and drive traffic for your business.

If you're not sure whether Pinterest is right for your business and campaign goals, there's no harm in running a few ads to see the results it brings you. To get the most out of your Pinterest experience, combine promoted pins with good old quality organic content.

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